When hope dies. When your dreams are destroyed. What do you do?
A year ago today I saw all of my hopes and dreams die a painful death in a matter of moments. “No, you are not strong enough to continue chemo. There is no other treatment.”
Those simple words set me on a journey that literally changed my life. They weren’t spoken to me, although I was in the room when they were spoken, ultimately they turned my world upside down.
There were dreams to travel. There were dreams to grow old together. There were hopes of healing. The fight was not so long but it felt like an eternity.
The future was no longer “together.” There would be no future. We were now living for “moments.” We were no longer planning for next week, month or year. Instead we were living and dying in each moment of now.
Over the years I have become very familiar with death. In an up close and personal way. So many of my friends have left this earth way to soon. Joey, Grant, John, Reggie, Tony, all to young to die, all gone. Then there is family, Marvin, Lonnie, Doris, Jesse, Rick, my Dad. All gone in just a few years. Death came and they were gone, forever.
All of them hold a special place in my heart. All of them touched my life in a beautiful, positive way. Whether they were a part of my life for a short time or years on end, they made a difference by being here.
This time though it was up close and very personal. This was affecting every little detail of my life.
I thought the world would end when my dad, my hero, died. The closest I can come to describing the devastation I felt was to compare it to losing my only daughter. Both of these deaths changed me. Both tore my heart into pieces that would take years to pick up and heal. Honestly, I am not sure all of the pieces have been picked up and healed yet.
This time was different. This time I was losing my best friend, my love, the father to my son, my everything. I found strength in places I never expected but there were moments when I was not sure I would survive this.
Not only was I losing the man I loved I was losing my way of life. Nothing would ever be the same. The hopes and dreams we had together were gone forever.
It is said that everyone grieves differently. Maybe because the death of someone we love affects us all in different ways. It is, many times, dependent on who that person was to you and how deeply they touched your life.
My belief is that when you are dealing with a long term illness you begin grieving when the diagnosis is given. I know I did. Every day from that moment to the very end, I grieved.
At first we held hope that surgery could be done. That hope was lost quickly. Then we hoped that chemo would heal – all while it killed – that hope was lost after 2 months. Then we hoped that alternative treatments would help. They did in many ways, but unless you are willing to cut the ugliness out of your life there is only so much that can be healed. He wasn’t willing and ultimately it cost him his life.
At first it was a matter of grieving the things we could no longer do. We couldn’t just pick up and go anymore. No more little day trips to our favorite places that we loved so much. He was to weak and just didn’t have the energy to just go.
Then it was a matter of grieving the man I loved changing. The man who sighed and rolled his eyes when something annoyed him. The man who was quick witted and always had a smart ass retort to just about everything. The man who laughed and smiled at the little, silly things in life. The man who joked. The man who loved music and sang. That man was gone. Oh, he had his moments until the very end but every day became more of a struggle and every day these attributes slipped away further and further into the ethers.
Towards the end it was a matter of grieving the things he was losing. His ability to do things for himself. His ability to have clear thoughts. His ability to fight for his life.
Watching someone who prided themselves on the way they were able to help others need 24/7 help is difficult. You can see them die inside every time you have to do the simple things for them. They are no longer the helper but rather one receiving help and it is a role they have no time to adjust to. It is humbling.
I grieved for all of the things he was going through. Dying robs you of any pride or dignity you might have while fully living. Dying with grace is a feat many do not accomplish during a long term illness. He did. Each day he would lose the ability to do something else yet he handled it with grace. That is not to say there was no frustration, there was, but ultimately, he would just let it go. What beauty it is to watch surrender in motion. It is a life lesson I intend to never forget.
Grieving is a long, tedious process. In my world it began over a year ago. Much has been healed and there is still much to heal.
Dancing with Death so up close and personal is yet another story to tell at a later date.
So what happens when all of your hopes and dreams are destroyed? You keep breathing. You take time to heal. You trust your God/Goddess/Spirit, whatever you choose to call what you believe in, to lay a new path in front of you. You do everything within your power to keep putting one foot in front of the other. You keep your heart open. You learn. You hurt. You let go of the old and embrace the new. You love. Before you realize it new hopes and dreams begin to come forward. You embrace them. You follow them. You live.
In Her Service,